From Dirt to the Sky
There's a patch of land in upstate New York called Kendrew Corners, where Rick O'Connor's forebears scratched out a living as dirt farmers. In scarcely two generations, one of their ambitious descendants had climbed to the 100th floor of the World Trade Center as a senior vice president for risk management at Marsh & McLennan. To Rick O'Connor, that meant a lot, his brother Bill recalled.
Raised in rural Watertown, N.Y., Mr. O'Connor had an itch for adventure. In college, he drove a white '56 MG and went hang gliding on weekends. When his engineering-related jobs took him around the country, he explored new terrain hungrily. (He became a connoisseur of Texas barbecue.)
His restless, demanding mind was always cooking up schemes. As a teenager, he began swapping Boy Scout patches, an activity that became a business and a newsletter. Years later, he scoured flea markets for vintage postcards and sold them over the Internet. Enamored of the chocolate cake his wife, Lynne, made, he envisioned a cake business.
Despite his love of sassy cities, Mr. O'Connor, 49, settled in the small town of LaGrangeville, N.Y., believing it was a sweet, safe place to raise Matthew, Erin and Lauren. He commuted two hours each way between his touchstones: his children and his tower.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 29, 2001.